On the Wildcat Prowl

Rice's James Casey fits the mold for the NFL's hot new scheme
April 26, 2009

Tight ends usually stick to receiving and blocking drills on Pro Day. Rice's James Casey added a wrinkle to his workout in Houston on March 26, lining up as a quarterback and darting passes all over the field in front of slack-jawed representatives of 28 NFL teams. "He kind of looks like Tim Tebow," said one scout, "except he throws the ball better than Tebow."

The 6'3", 246-pound Casey, a 24-year-old former high school QB and minor league pitcher, did a little of everything in two years at Rice. As a freshman he played seven positions in a single game, producing both a rushing TD and a sack. Last season he finished second in the nation with 111 receptions; he also frequently took snaps in Rice's version of the Wildcat formation, adding six rushing touchdowns and two TD passes. Such versatility puts Casey in the company of multidimensional prospects like West Virginia's Pat White and Florida's Percy Harvin who are drawing interest this year as potential Wildcat weapons in the NFL.

Casey, however, would provide a twist on football's latest offensive innovation. At his size he's cut more in the mold of Tebow, Florida's big, multithreat quarterback, than the speedy backs and receivers who typically take direct snaps in the Wildcat. But though he could be an effective goal line weapon in the NFL, it's his arm that intrigues scouts most. "The next level of Wildcat is the guy who can throw the ball better than, say, [Dolphins running back] Ronnie Brown," says draft expert Mike Mayock. "Most NFL defenses have figured out what the Wildcat is, so you better get someone who can pass the ball as well as run it."

"I think what's going to happen in the NFL is exactly what happened here at Rice," Owls coach David Bailiff says. "Once they see how talented he is, they're going to find him multiple roles."

Says Casey, "I'll deep-snap. I'll return punts. I'll line up in the Wildcat. I'll do anything. I just want to get on the field."

PHOTOGREG NELSONTOSS-UP Casey caught 111 passes in '08—but it's his arm that really intrigues.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)